First Ever Dinosaur Fossils Discovered in Saudi Arabia

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By sangeetha seshagiri | January 8, 2014 7:02 PM EST

In a first, scientists have uncovered dinosaur fossils in Saudi Arabia.

A team of international scientists from Sweden's Uppsala University, Australia's Museum Victoria and Monash University, and the Saudi Geological Survey have discovered dinosaur remains, which is the first ever record of the giant, prehistoric animal in the Arabian peninsula.

Uppsala University
A theropod tooth and a sauropod vertebra (shown at different scales) are some of the first ever discovered dinosaur remains in Saudi Arabia. (Maxim Leonov & Tim Holland, Uppsala University, Sweden)

Dinosaur remains including a string of vertebrae from the tail of a huge "Brontosaurus-like" sauropod and teeth from a carnivorous theropod were found in the north-western part of Saudi Arabia along the coast of the Red Sea.

According to scientists, the bones and teeth are approximately 72 million years old. Using the remains, the researchers were able to identity two types of dinosaurs - a bipedal meat-eating abelisaurid which is distantly related to Tyrannosaurus rex (T-rex) and a plant-eating titanosaur. They found that the abelisaurid was just about six metres long, whereas the titanosaur was up to 20 metres in length.

"This discovery is important not only because of where the remains were found, but also because of the fact that we can actually identify them. Indeed, these are the first taxonomically recognizable dinosaurs reported from the Arabian Peninsula," lead author of the study Dr Benjamin Kear, based at Uppsala University in Sweden, said in a statement.

According to Kear and his team, dinosaur fossils are exceptionally rare to be found in Saudi Arabia. "Dinosaur remains from the Arabian Peninsula and the area east of the Mediterranean Sea are exceedingly rare because sedimentary rocks deposited in streams and rivers during the Age of Dinosaurs are rare, particularly in Saudi Arabia itself," said Dr Tom Rich, from Museum Victoria in Australia.

Researchers said what is now dry desert in Saudi Arabia was once a beach littered with bones and teeth of ancient marine reptiles and dinosaurs. When the pre-historic animals were alive, the Arabian landmass was largely under water and formed the north-western coastal margin of the African continent.

The details of the discoveries were published recently in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

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(Photo: Uppsala University / Maxim Leonov & Tim Holland)
A theropod tooth and a sauropod vertebra (shown at different scales) are some of the first ever discovered dinosaur remains in Saudi Arabia. (Maxim Leonov & Tim Holland, Uppsala University, Sweden)
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